In the last five years, U.S. Customs Border Protection has seen a 300 percent increase in methamphetamine seizures at border ports of entry.
It's one of many statistics that points to what officials are calling a serious meth problem across the county. More and more of the drug – now cheaper and better quality than ever – filters into the country through multiple Southern California border ports of entry, according to San Diego County’s 2015 Meth Strike Force Report Card.
“Unfortunately, more and more, San Diego County is in the cross hairs of the Mexican drug cartels. These cartels are smuggling huge amounts of meth in, and its good quality, and it’s cheap,” said County Supervisor Diane Jacobs.
County officials laid out the bleak statistics in the reporter card at a multi-agency press conference Monday, with detailed information about the number of meth-related deaths in San Diego County, emergency room visits and drug seizures.
In 2014, 262 people died as a result of using methamphetamine, a “troubling trend” for the region, Jacobs said. The youngest victim was 17, and the oldest was 70. Though the number had decreased from the previous year, it was still two-thirds higher than five years ago, she said.
“Let’s make no mistake about it, meth means death,” Jacobs said. “Meth breaks lives and we need to continue to do all that we can to stem the tide of this terrible, terrible drug in our community.”
The drug has become one of the most troubling issues for the county, said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.
“Methamphetamine is a quadruple threat,” Duffy said. “It’s pure, it’s inexpensive, it’s highly addictive and its widely available.”
25 years ago, the drug was primarily made in rural laboratories by untrained workers before being distributed. At the time, the drug was approximately 50 percent pure.
“The methamphetamine that were talking about today is not the methamphetamine of 25 years ago,” Duffy said.
Modern day methamphetamine is produced in high quantities in Mexican “superlabs” that are similar to mainstream pharmaceutical labs in many ways, Duffy said. The labs are staffed with university-trained scientists, she said, and produce a drug that is close to pure. Ninety percent of the methamphetamine coming into the U.S., Duffy said, is coming from these Mexican labs.
“The result is the U.S. markets are being flooded with high quality, low priced methamphetamine like we’ve never seen before,” Duffy said.
In the past five years, U.S. Customs Border Protection saw a 300 percent increase in meth seizures at California port of entries. Forty five percent more meth is seized across California ports of entry than at New Mexico, Arizona and Texas port of entries combined.
In recent years, cartels have been using drones and teen boys to smuggle in the drug. Officials have seen an increased amount of liquid versions of the drug, which is easier to hide, come into the country, said Duffy. Once the drug enters the U.S. it is processed into a crystallized version of the drug.
Once the drug is around the county, many law enforcement officials encounter it, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said.
“Unfortunately, meth use in San Diego and crime are closely linked,” Gore said.
Of all adults booked into San Diego County Jail, 45 percent tested positive for the drug, a 66 percent increase from five years ago. There has been a 28 percent increase in meth related arrests across the county. Since Prop 47 passed into law, officials said they hope people are encouraged to go into treatment program.
Going forward, Duffy said a primary goal would be to work with Mexican government officials to crack down on the “superlabs” to disrupt the supply and stop meth from coming out. Additionally, officials at the conference said they have been working with the public to help them better understand the issue.
Anyone looking for help with substance abuse can call the County Access and Crisis Line at 1 (888) 724-7240, available 24/7 for anyone seeking help. Anyone seeking help specifically with meth abuse can call a county hot line at 1 (877) NO TO-METH. Additional resources can be found by clicking here.